A look at some of the greatest big men of all-time and how their card values compare to their backcourt contemporaries
Sneakers aren’t the only thing NBA big men can struggle to sell in relation to their backcourt counterparts. As it turns out, they tend to have lower trading card values as well. In the NBA, power forwards and centers can be the most intimidating players on the court, but they don’t receive nearly the same respect in the hobby.
Similar to how quarterbacks in the NFL have the highest value, guards and small forwards in the NBA tend to be the most valuable and best investments. We’ll take a look at Hall of Famers, NBA veterans, and the league’s rising stars.
For this exercise, we will be using Card Ladder to compare card values. Let’s get into it.
Hall of Famers
For a majority of Hall of Famers, their cards were released pre or during the junk wax era. Relative to younger stars, they may have lower values simply due to the population count of those cards and lack of exclusive card manufacturing deals.
We’ll first start off with a few guards who changed the game and how they stack up against a couple of all-time bigs:
Michael Jordan (SG)
Rookie Card: 1986 Fleer PSA 10
Market value: $335,728
Kobe Bryant (SG)
Rookie card: 1996 Topps PSA 10
Market value: $1,573
Shaquille O’Neal (C)
Rookie card: 1992 Topps PSA 10
Market value: $199
Tim Duncan (PF/C)
Rookie card: 1997 Topps PSA 10
Market value: $168
Steve Nash (PG)
Rookie card: 1996 Topps PSA 10
Market value: $158
MJ and Kobe are two of the greatest to ever do it, and they rightfully have some of the highest values in the hobby. It may be unfair to compare, but some consider Shaq and Tim Duncan to both be top-10 players as well. Yet their values are relatively low, considering both have won multiple NBA MVPs, championships, and are in the Hall of Fame. Shaq is also one of the most loveable personalities and has numerous endorsement deals. Even with as much air time as Shaq receives, his 1992 Topps rookie is barely beating out Steve Nash’s 1996 rookie.
Nash had a phenomenal career, with multiple NBA MVPs and seven All-NBA selections. Even with those accolades, most NBA fans and critics would not put him on the level of either Duncan or Shaq when it comes to the all-time greats.
NBA Veterans & Rising Stars in the Hobby
Stephen Curry (PG)
Rookie card: 2009 Topps PSA 10
Market value: $12,950
Kevin Durant (SF/PF)
Rookie card: 2007 Topps PSA 10
Market value: $3,943
Anthony Davis (PF/C)
Rookie card: 2012 Panini Prizm PSA 10
Market value: $340
Joel Embiid (C)
Height: 7 feet
Rookie card: 2014 Panini Prizm PSA 10
Market value: $179
Devin Booker (SG)
Rookie card: 2015 Panini Prizm PSA 10
Market value: $410
LaMelo Ball (PG)
Rookie Card: 2020 Panini Prizm PSA 10
Market value: $362
So, why are we comparing Steph to KD? Both have won league MVPs, multiple championships, and regular season scoring titles, and both have ultimately changed the NBA. Curry broke the all-time 3-point record with perhaps five seasons or more left in his career. Durant is one of the best big men we’ve seen in the NBA, redefining the term itself; his ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor, create his own shot, and defend multiple positions is unmatched.
And their rookie card prices have a huge discrepancy in value. Why should there be a $9,000 difference between two of the best players the NBA has seen?
Two of the NBA’s premier big men are Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis. Both have multiple NBA All-Star appearances and All-NBA awards. Unfortunately, their cards’ values are low compared to both Devin Booker and LaMelo Ball. Ball boasts more than double the value of Embiid despite being less than halfway into his second season in the NBA. Booker is higher than Davis, even with fewer All-Star nominations, zero All-NBA accolades, and no championship ring.
If you recently got into the hobby and were looking for the highest boom potential, the backcourt will certainly give you the best chance of a strong ROI. You would want to focus on players between 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-6. Even though there are relative exceptions like KD and Giannis and generational exceptions like LeBron, the players that are actually closer to the average male height of 5-foot-9 tend to be the most valuable on the market.